Switzerland
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About Switzerland

Switzerland is a land locked, mountainous and famously neutral country in the heart of Europe, which is the home to internationally renowned banks, watchmakers and chocolatiers. But there is much more to Switzerland than first meets the eye.

There is no denying that Switzerland is a country of outstanding beauty with quaint mountain villages in the Alps, tranquil blue lake vistas, glamorous ski resorts like St Moritz and fields full of edelweiss. Yes, you will find cuckoo clocks and chocolate; yes you will find German-style punctual bureaucrats; but there are other sides to Switzerland that are altogether more laid back and relaxed. Their French and Italian neighbours also make their influence known here, with a chic style and café culture that contrasts strongly with the popular misconception of the Swiss way of life.

Switzerland is fiercely independent and played no part in either of the World Wars. Indeed, it only joined the United Nations in 2002 and remains outside of the European Union, but that doesn’t mean it is an outsider. If anything, Switzerland’s neutral status makes it a major powerbroker in the region, with Geneva home to many UN organisations as well as the International Red Cross. Geneva is a truly international city, with almost half the population a tourist or foreign worker. And if Geneva is the briefcase of Switzerland, then Zurich is the wallet, with countless international banks based there. Swiss banks are famous for their discretion, and this makes Zurich the banking capital of Europe, if not the world.

 

Away from business, Interlaken and St Moritz are the places to head for outdoor fun, with some of the world’s best ski runs and winter sports on offer, surrounded by the breathtaking mountain scenery of the Alps. There are also endless hiking trails through the Alps and the Jura mountains offering stunning views to reward your climb.

When it comes to Swiss cities, the capital, Bern, is a chocolate box not to be missed, with its wonderful old town packed with traditional architecture and crafts. Its Old Town features on UNESCO's World Heritage list with its Gothic cathedrals and interesting architecture.  Zurich is the main financial, industrial and commercial area and is a culturally rich and trend-setting city while Geneva is home to many international organisations.

Also worth a visit is Basel, home to the world’s largest art fair and huge February carnival Basler Fasnacht. Even Zurich and Geneva know how to enjoy themselves, with countless festivals, lively nightlife and endless cultural attractions. Baden has the country's richest source of mineral rich thermal waters so it is not surprising that health and wellbeing breaks are popular in Switzerland and are a great idea for some post-treatment pampering and relaxation, as are the picturesque and soul-soothing towns of Lucerne and Lausanne.

While the cities may be cosmopolitan, packed with art galleries, opera houses and nightspots, the countryside is as quiet and peaceful as it comes. Soaring mountains, placid lakes and the mile after mile of rolling hills in the Central Plateau are home to a lifestyle that hasn’t changed for centuries, and sees no reason why it should.

All in all, in the country that is famous for its timepieces and time keeping, you could just have the time of your life.

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Quick facts

Population: 8 Million
 
Currency: Swiss Franc
 
Capital: Bern
 
Languages: German, French, Italian
 
Religions: Catholic 39%, Protestant 31%
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